‘Stranger Things’ Season 1 Review
THE HORROR WE’VE BEEN MISSING
Note: This section is SPOILER FREE.
The moment I saw the title Stranger Things on Netflix’s homepage, I saw the font and knew it had to have something to do with Stephen King. The font of the title easily reflects the recognizable font of King’s name on his horror novels of the ‘80s and ‘90s, and that small suggestion convinced me that I needed to watch this show when it released.
The Duffer Brothers clearly were influenced by horror movies of the ‘80s and horror/sci-fi miniseries à la Stephen King. This combination and format work perfectly in Netflix’s favor, as each episode’s ending makes it so easy to say, “Just one more.” Not only does it work well for Netflix in their quest to make many easily-binged series, but it works well for the viewer. It views like chapters of a book (also suggested by each episode being labeled a chapter in their title), with a snippet of the action and an abrupt cliffhanger just waiting for you to turn the page and continue on. The episodes meld together well into one coherent narrative, not being chopped up like regular shows with a “recently on Stranger Things” at the beginning of each episode, as it just continues on what the previous episode ended with.
Not only is the intrigue built well through the action, but the characters add to the viewer’s desire to binge as well. There are so many sympathetic characters in this series, and so many backstories that beg to be told. The flashback scenes were vital in telling these, as any other way would not have done those histories justice in the characters’ minds. All of the good characters grew on me, and I loved to hate the villains more and more as we got further in. It’s excellent to see kids actually casted as characters around their same age, and these kids are excellent actors. Winona Ryder is amazing in the frantic mother role, and the sympathy for her and other characters creates another dimension of the desire to binge, if only to make sure they end up okay.
Note: This section contains spoilers. SPOILER ALERT!
After finishing the season, and being a huge Stephen King fan, it was excellent to see King himself praise the series.
Watching STRANGER THINGS is looking watching Steve King’s Greatest Hits. I mean that in a good way.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 17, 2016
STRANGER THINGS is pure fun. A+. Don’t miss it. Winona Ryder shines.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 18, 2016
There were so many King references that there are whole articles on it, but I’ll keep it short. The biggest (and arguably most important) is the character of Eleven and her backstory. She is Carrie White with the backstory of Charlie McGee (Firestarter). Stranger Things takes place in 1983, and Firestarter by King was published in 1984. In my own mind, I’d like to think that this was done purposefully, like an alternate universe where King took inspiration from true events of a child with supernatural powers used by the government after their own experimental drug testing on her parent.
The team of Sheriff Hopper and Joyce that develops further into the series is really enjoyable, because they’re both so determined to find Will and get to the core of what’s going on. Once the characters who had bits and pieces of knowledge of the events all started talking together, I was so ecstatic. The only way this problem got solved was because everyone teamed up and shared what they knew.
The season ended how I expected it to, knowing the King style of tying everything up neatly, but then putting a thing or two at the very end that tells us that there’s more to worry about. After finishing the last episode, I knew there would be a sequel season (which was just announced officially by Netflix earlier today), and I knew I needed that season ASAP. But for now, I am quite satisfied with thinking over the storyline, doing some extra Internet research and rewatching to catch more King references I hadn’t caught the first time.
If horror and sci-fi are right up your alley, and Stephen King is a hero in your mind, Stranger Things is perfect for you. This series is full of action but also containing the kind of horror that creeps up on you, where you didn’t realize you were completely freaked out until you’re in bed in the complete darkness. Winona Ryder is absolutely amazing in a maternal role, the cast of kids is authentic and the influence of Stephen King is strong with this one.
Want to geek out about the season and/or Stephen King with me? Tweet me @Aprilms15. And be sure to follow us @YouNerded.
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Easily became one of my favorite shows of all time within the first few hours of me watching it. I appreciate the Stephen King call outs and references in your writing as I hadn’t even thought of them. I saw the series as equally influenced by Spielberg who always accentuated his science fiction with awe and childlike wonder. Also really enjoyed the division of the series into chapters, in that way it reminded me of a Tarantino movie, and some of the heavier dialogue scenes seemed to call to Tarantino’s work as well =)